The #31 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT opened their GT World Challenge Endurance Cup accounts with an emphatic win with drivers Mirko Bortolotti, Kelvin van der Linde and Max Vaxiviere in what was an exciting race book ended by a 13 minute sprint due to a safety car.
The initial stages of the race were mired by various caution periods but the #66 Attempto Racing Audi lead throughout the first stint and Frederic Vervisch was gradually pulling away from the #51 AF Corse Ferrari in the periods of green flag running. James Calado’s second place was eventually taken by Raffaele Marciello in his AKKA ASP Mercedes before the field reached the first pit stops. It was here that Attempto’s challenge started to falter. A slow stop for the team due the car needing to be re aligned in the pit box, meant it dropped down the order where as the pair of Pro class Ferraris jumped into the lead with the #72 SMP Racing of Sergey Sirotkin trailing the AF Corse car now taken over by Nicklas Nielsen.
After a steady first stint running in fifth, Vaxiviere made way for Kelvin van der Linde and waisted no time in making progress up through the field. Van de Linde started by making quick work of Louis Deletraz (#40 GPX Racing) and Timur Boguslavskiy (#88 AKKA ASP) before setting his sights on the two leading Ferraris. In not to much time, Kelvin made the pass for the lead and then The Audi driver proceeded to pull out a 20 second lead while penalties were being dished out to various competitors for speeding under a full course yellow, the #51 AF Corse being one of those.
A slow final stop for the SMP Racing Ferrari dropped the car down the order and left the WRT Audi, now driven by Mirko Bortolotti, with an advantage of over 25 seconds. While there were two safety car periods to negotiate, Bortolotti showed the composure and speed we had seen throughout the weekend to remain at the front and take his first win in an Audi at the first time of asking. Behind however there was a titanic scrap for the remaining podium positions.
Mathieu Jaminet in the #12 GPX Racing Porsche was coming under heavy pressure from the #88 AKKA ASP machine of Felipe Fraga. Jaminet however managed to benefit from Dries Vanthoor in the sister Pro WRT Audi closing in on Fraga and managed to keep the second spot on the podium. Vanthoor eventually came out on top in the battle with Fraga and secured third in what surely has to be considered a very good day for the team.
Fifth place went the of the #25 Sainteloc Racing Audi proving that the Audi R8 LMS GT3 was performing superbly at Imola. The #99 ROWE Racing Porsche and the recovering #51 AF Corse Ferrari finished sixth and seventh respectively with the #69 Optimum Motorsport Mclaren, taking a strong eighth on its series debut thanks to Rob Bell, Joe Osborne and Ollie Wilkinson. The #40 GPX Porsche and the #163 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini completed the overall top-10.
The Silver Cup class was won by the #78 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini, driven by Patrick Kujala, Alex MacDowall and Frederik Schandorff, after taking the class lead following a clash between rivals Garage 59 (#159 Aston Martin) and Tech 1 Racing (#15 Lexus). The Aston Martin managed to take the runner up spot followed by the Lexus.
Garage 59 however did get to celebrate a victory after the #188 car secured it in the Pro-Am category after finishing a brilliant fourteenth overall with the runners up being the SKY Tempesta Ferrari. The #108 CMR Bentley of Bernard Delhez, Romano Ricci and Stephane Tribaudini ran in the Am Cup class and took the chequered flag in 31st place overall.
The next GT World Challenge Europe round will see the Sprint Cup kick off with a three one-hour races at Misano (7-9 August). The Endurance Cup will resume with a six-hour contest at the Nurburgring on 5/6 September.